Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I work with Chinese children to practice some English. I have a sentence like this:

"What an useful advice you gave me!"

However, on most Chinese materials I have with me, it is said that the correct way to say this is by omitting "an" because advice is uncountable. There's also that explanation on internet: http://wenwen.soso.com/z/q92137552.htm

"What useful advice you gave me"

Which one is it?

What about "What (a) great weather today!"

share|improve this question

1 Answer 1

up vote 10 down vote accepted

You do omit the "an", indeed because advice is not countable.

"What useful advice you gave me" is correct and totally natural sounding.

You COULD say:

"What a useful piece of advice."

Since a 'piece of advice' is countable. (This isn't the preferred way to express it: Stick with your second example.)

"What great weather today", "We have great weather today", "There's going to be great weather tomorrow" are all correct, because weather is also not countable. Could you see yourself counting the number of weathers?


You use 'a' before useful, not 'an.' Take this sentence:

You gave me a useful calculator for the test.

You are correct that u is a vowel, so normally you would use an. However the rule is a little more complicated than that -- how you decide to use 'a' or 'an' is based on what the word SOUNDS like, not how's it's spelled.

"Useful" starts with the "You" sound, and in this case y is acting as a consonant. Other situations where this is confusing include:

He is an honorable man.

Honorable starts with the "on" sound, and o is a vowel.

This is a union of our peers.

Union, just like useful, starts with the "you" sound, so you use 'a'.

A one-legged chair decorated the foyer.

One is pronounced "won", a w sound, so you use 'a'.

share|improve this answer
+1. But you could have mentioned "What a useful suggestion" and "What a great day!" which are both normal. –  TimLymington Aug 17 '11 at 13:09

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.